Dave Micus, Plum Island Sound

November 8th, 2004

River Redux
By Dave Micus

On a recent trip to Costco I purchased the DVD version of A River Runs Through It at the ridiculously low price of $10. If you've forgotten, "River" is a film based on the novella by Norman Maclean that was out about ten years ago, gave Brad Pitt his start and dramatically increased the general interest in fly fishing, much to the chagrin of the fly fishing curmudgeons.

The curmudgeons, it seems, believed that only anglers who have been fly fishing for at least 20 years should be allowed to enjoy the sport; in other words, no one but themselves. The logic here is similar to the reproductive strategy of the Shakers, and we all know how successful that was. Fortunately, the tackle companies had no such compunctions; a surge in sales amplified competition and the result was an increase in the quality of fly fishing gear and a decrease in price. (Somewhat, I should qualify. I recently saw a review that referred to a $490 rod as "modestly priced.")

That the film had any impact on fly fishing is surprising, given that fishing only provides a subtext to the plot--the alienated family member on a downward spiral who wants help but not salvation, capturing beautifully what Edmund Wilson referred to as 'universal irony.' We've all been there, the brother or sister, nephew or niece who stays just beyond our reach, yet I don't recall ever seeing it articulated quite so well in a work of art.

Perhaps most impressive about 'River,' the book, is the author, Norman Maclean. A River Runs Through It was his first published work of fiction, written at the spry young age of 74-truly inspirational to we procrastinators. The book and the movie are complimentary, which is unusual. The book provides many more anecdotes about fishing, but the primary theme is more succinct in the movie. Neither ruins the other and both are worthy of your perusal.

So the next time you're in the video store walk past the new releases and pick up A River Runs Though It (older movies are always in). Even non-fly fishers will enjoy this film. And if it inspires them to pick up a fly rod, all the better. ~ Dave

About Dave:

Dave Micus lives in Ipswich, Massachusetts. He is an avid striped bass fly fisherman, writer and instructor. He writes a fly fishing column for the Port City Planet newspaper of Newburyport, MA (home of Plum Island and Joppa Flats) and teaches a fly fishing course at Boston University.

Previous Dave Micus Columns

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